Blog post 16: Free “cider”?

Home made “cider-taste drink (left) and “ginger ale” (right) from water kefir.

Are you dreaming of free, tasty, slightly sparkling, alcohol free “cider”? It would be nice if this would also be excellent for your intestinal flora, he?

Here is one solution:  WATER KEFIR

I received it from a friend of mine who is expert in alimentation (orthomolecular medicine). She is explained me that if your intestines are always “irritated” (inflamed by light intolerance or imbalanced bacterial flora), you can feel continuously tired. And she was convinced that by modifying a little bit the way of eating, it could be better! I must admit that I didn’t believe her at the beginning… but we tried… and know she is our hero! (there are some interesting recipes on her website)

What is Kefir? Kefir is a mixture of yeast and (probiotic) bacteria who work together (symbiose). They “eat” the sugar and produce lactic acid, ethanol (0,1% => considered alcohol-free), and carbon dioxide (making it sparkling). This process is called fermentation (as in beer).

You’ll find online many sites selling water kefir, but don’t buy it, just ask around, use social media to ask friends who can give you some! (If you live in Antwerp, contact me).

You’ll also find a lot of recipes; where you have to weight all ingredients. But we want quick and easy recipes, right? So, let’s not be exact (no problem for this recipe) and let’s take it easy. Your final product will always differ anyway, even if you add exactly the same amount of ingredients.

What do you need?

  • A glass container (that you can close, but not obligatory sealed)
  • Sugar: I use cane sugar, but you can experiment with all kind of sugar, except honey as honey will kill your kefir (antibacterial).
  • Sweet dried fruits NOT TREATED (or biological). I use figs, but you can try with apricots, raisins, dates,…
  • A PLASTIC sieve (NL: zeef; FR: passoire). Do not use metal as the kefir gets bad from it (I use my old plastic juicer).
  • A NON METALIC spoon

Recipe (3 min + 2-4 days waiting):

  • In the glass container, add 2 spoons of kefir with one spoon of sugar. Add water (about 10x more than the kefir). Add dried fruits (for this quantity of kefir I would add 1 fig). If you close the lid hermetically, DON’T FILL COMPLETELY the glass container (or take a bigger one).
  • Put the lid on it (can be loose; be careful if you close it that you don’t forget it…it produces gas and could explode…)
  • Let it sit for 2-4 days (I do open it once in a while as I’m scared of the gas production 😉). Room temperature, no direct sun (can be in the dark too). From day 2: the dried fruits will be “swimming” and some “foam” will be at the top. If you stop after 2 days, it will be sweeter and less sparkling.
  • Filter
    • keep the liquid to drink (you can keep it for some time in the fridge)
    • rinse the kefir grains with cold water
    • keep some kefir to make new one or keep it in the fridge (See scheme below).


  • Water kefir and milk kefir are 2 different kefirs grains. You cannot keep a culture of water kefir using milk, neither the other way around.
  • Some people add lemon (together with the dried fruits). I didn’t try it yet.
  • If you want ginger ale, add candied ginger (NL: gekonfijt gember, FR: gingembre confit) to the filtrated kefir (the liquid) and let it sit for one more day.
  • If you leave it too long, it will get more bitter.

Blog post 14: Zero waste presents?

Present from my daughters for their father (birthday)

I don’t like to feel obliged to give presents, although I like giving and receiving them when I’m sure the person will be happy with it.

Some people started the concept of “Green Friday” to fight the “consumption fever” of the Black Friday 😉 I love it!

Idea of the Green Friday: Think different:

More ecological, more sustainable. Where was the product produced and how does it comes to me? Which material is it made of? Is it durable or cheap-breaking-after-2-hours? Is there a more sustainable alternative (not too expensive)? Can you find it in second hand?

The most difficult is to find ideas of zero-waste/sustainable/eco presents. And don’t get fooled by the increasing market using those words to sell their products… We don’t need 100 reusable of cotton bag, nor 30 straws of all kind, so many reusable cans or bottles… It also costs a lot of energy to produce them!

I’ve been looking for some idea for you ;-):

  • Some activities (cinema, museum, overnight in B&B, excellent meal at your home,…
  • In summer: Zero waste flowers or fruits where you can pick up the flowers or fruit you like in the field, and just pay what you take (based on trust of course!)
  • Chocolate in your own container: I usually go to the pralines shop with my own box; they love it! (my husband and kids; as well as the shop who saves some money).
  • Bake cookies! I’ve a lot of quick and easy to make recipes; but there are for sure plenty as tasty on the internet!
  • Home-made beauty or cleaning products? For beauty products, you have to go to other sites than mine (promise, I’ll search for easy and quick recipes, but not now…); the website from the list of my favourite blogs/website have plenty of recipes. Give some home-made laundry with the recipe so that they can make it themselves! (it is as giving a win-for-life as they will save so much money with it!)
  • Cooking lessons or book: seasonal vegetable or vegetarian dishes. My favorite books (in dutch: “de moestuin van Mme zsazsa”, the “Lekker ecologish” van Velt.
  • Reusable stuffs (bottle, straw, tea bags, toothbrush, ear bugs, lunch box,…). But check first if this is the 23th reusable bottle that the person will receive, or is there something that he/she would really like or use frequently. My favourite is the reusable baking paper. It is very cheap, and you can use it for years (I’ve mine more than 10 years!). You can also use it to protect your oven for spilling, to lay under a pizza in the oven, to grill vegetables,…)
  • If you know what you will and you have time, you can search in second hand shops.
  • Or if you need more inspiration, I found a website with 101 ideas, even for kids.

IF this is too difficult, why not try to reduce the packaging by wrapping it in fabric left overs? (you take them back afterwards for next time). Or even old t-shirts or home-made gift bags?

Enjoy giving and receiving presents!


PS: Please, if you have some excellent ideas, feel free to post them here below (it doesn’t appear directly as I’ve to approve the comment first).

PPS: Follow me on Facebook if you want to be updated for nice tips, extra recipes, order washing products,…

Sourdough bread

I always thought that sourdough bread (FR: levain; NL: zuurdesem) was something very complicated… I never thought that I would be baking bread one day; nor that I would write a post on it on my blog. 😉

I’ve added a new page on Sourdough bread where I explain how I’m doing (of course, I’m keeping it easy). I’m applying the recipe that my godmother gave me… and it works perfectly!


Dear EcoWithKids Followers,

I realized that if you are not following me on my Facebook page, you are not updated about the important changes on the website (unless I write a new post).

Let me try this mean to keep you updated once in a while without invading your mailbox.

The last changes that I think might interest you (and that I remember of…):

I would love to hear if you have already tried something! So don’t hesitate to post in on my Facebook page, or to leave it in the comments.

Blog post 12: Ingredients

Which ingredients do I need to buy?

Good question!

Actually not many. With 6 ingredients (+ one essential oil), you can make laundry powder, softener, all-purpose cleaning, toilet cleaning and dishwasher powder.

And it is cheaper than buying commercial products! Great, he?

  Laundry powder Softener All purpose cleaning Toilet cleaning Dishwasher powder
Crystal soda x       x
Baking soda x     (x)  
Sodium percarbonate (x)       x
Citric acid       x x
Soap flakes x       x
Vinegar   x x    
Essential oil x        


In household products, soda is very often used. You will hear of “crystal soda” (sodium carbonate, washing soda) and “baking soda” (sodium bicarbonate, NL: zuiveringzout).

Keep in mind: They are quite similar; but crystal soda is more powerful and is therefore NOT appropriate for cooking/eating.

Baking soda, is a (water) softener, cleaning and abrasive agent, regulates pH, limescale remover (NL: kalksteen; FR: calcaire) and can be used in food.

In contact with water it forms carbonic acid (unstable) which breaks up into carbon dioxide (makes bubbles) and water.

Baking soda can be used almost everywhere in the house… here is my selection of actions:

  • Ingredient of the laundry powder
  • Odor remover: sprinkle, wait, then shake or vacuum clean the excess: Odor removal for shoes, closet, garbage, kitchen cutting board, matrass…
  • Scrub on a sponge (FR: récurer; NL: schuren): bathroom joints, oven, baking pots and pans (underneath, where it’s turning black)
  • Toilet cleaning
  • Toothpaste (baking soda; but it tastes very salty!!!)
  • Keep cut flowers longer beautiful: one teaspoon in water
  • Unblock pipes (1 cup (+/_ 2 cup vinegar) and afterwards very hot water)

Crystal soda is a surfactant and is used for white laundry as it is described to fade colored textiles. Don’t worry, not as bleach does; I’m using crystal soda for all my laundry, and I didn’t see the effect of crystal soda (yet). It has a cleaning effect, remove grease, neutralize acids.

It has similar action as baking soda except that it cannot be used in food.

Sodium percarbonate

Sodium percarbonate is made from crystal soda (surfactant) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) which is a whitening agent (therefore some people add it for their white laundry).

I do use it for the dishwasher powder.

It is an excellent stain remover (even difficult ones such as coffee, red wine, grass, fruit, perspiration, blood) or to clean your oven, or greasy and dirty kitchen instruments: 2 soup spoon in 500ml warm water (don’t make too much, it loses efficacy with time)

Citric acid

Is present in many plants (lemon juice contains 5% of citric acid) and can be extracted from plants. You probably eat it without knowing it (flavoring and preservative in food and beverage: E330). It also remove limescale and improve the effectiveness of soap and detergents.

As you know, I use citric acid to clean my toilet; and is present in my dishwasher powder.


There are many types that you can use. The most important is that the soap you choose doesn’t contains glycerin (as it has the tendency to stay sticky in the water evacuation pipes…).

Here are the most common you can buy in Europe:

  • Aleppo soap is made in Syria, in the region of the city of Aleppo, from olive oil and laurel berry oil (added at the end of the process).
  • Marseille soap is made in France, in the region of the city of …. (do i really have to say it?), from olive oil and palm oil or copra oil (extracted from coconut). Beware of imitation using animal fat instead…
  • Black soap is sometime use as unique soap or mixed with another one. It exist in liquid form or creamy (2 tablespoon liquid = 1 teaspoon creamy black soap).

How to choose?

Both need to be imported from another continent (either the soap itself; or its ingredients). But with the actual fuss about palm oil (deforestation to plant intensive culture of palm trees), Aleppo seems the more sustainable (eco, fair,…). However, you have to see what you can easily get.

I’ve been disappointed by the  “soap flakes” from “la droguerie ecologique” which are apparently made of coco and palm oil only…so now I use Marseille soap flakes (that I buy without packaging at the packaging free shop).


Yes, you just need the cheapest type of vinegar: white vinegar.

I make my “all-purpose cleaning product” with it. I clean almost everything in the bathroom with it.

It is also my softener for my laundry.

Don’t worry, the smell of vinegar doesn’t stay!

Essential oil

I’m definitely not an expert in essential oil. I use those ones:

  • Lavender: nice smell and relaxing (laundry)
  • Tea tree: antiseptic (laundry)
  • Palmarosa : one drop as deodorant

Where to buy the products?

 First check close by home: bio shop, drugstore, bio supermarket or ask them what they can order for you. Otherwise, go online; but try to buy in your own country. In Europe the French brand ‘la droguerie ecologique” is quite known and they offer everything you need. It can be a good start, until you turn into an “eco-zero waste expert”.

If you live in the surrounding of Antwerp/Mortsel, I can combine orders to reduce transport and transport cost ( I can also make you a starter-pack) and deliver it at home by bike. If you are interested, write me via the contact form or follow me the EcoWithKids Facebook page (I’ll let everyone know before placing a new order).

Blog post 10: Ecological personal hygiene

For personal hygiene, there are many changes possible; you can test them one by one 😉

What do I use? I use palmarosa essential oil for deodorant, washable pad cloth, baking soda for toothpaste (since few days), hard soap for hands and body and refill of liquid shampoo at the zero waste shop, and papier-cotton ear sticks. New bamboo toothbrush are ordered to be tested.

Picture (from left to right, up to bottom): menstrual cups, bamboo toothbrush and baking soda, peppermint-like hard toothpaste, cotton-paper ear stick, palmarosa essential oil, hard soap (with a condom drawn on it… receive at a AIDS conference many years ago, hihihi), and washable pad cloth.

Toothbrush: There are now many brands (and “fake copies”) of bamboo toothbrushes. I tried the “humble brush” and the “hydrophil”. Unfortunately, I’ve switched back to a classical (plastic) toothbrush. The ‘hairs” of the toothbrush are a little but too hard for my gums and they suffer of it. I want to give another try with the “toothbrush Bam Boo”. They propose “soft” toothbrushes. (Update Oct 2019: Bam Boo is as hard as the other ones…)

For the Dutch speaking, you can read the excellent blog of “Ma vie en vert” (she has two post on toothbrushes: 1st post and update).

Toothpaste: Here again, there are many options and I’ve tried some of them. Many DIY toothpaste require some preparation time (just what we want to avoid, he?) and some “exotic products” as coconut oil (not so ecological at the end…).

We bought the “lolly toothpaste”: you just have to go over it with your wet toothbrush. It is not foamy, so you have to get used to it. There are different taste. The one I tried, were not tasting very good…I was literally feeling sick of it.  We also tried the “candy toothpaste”: it looks like a small mint and you have to bite on it until it gets a paste. Then you can brush your teeth. I’m not fan of this neither (and I came in a tick plastic packaging…). But if you travel a lot it is very easy! You might find it without packaging at a zero waste shop.

For the purpose of the blog post, I decided to start using baking soda (commercial toothpaste have been proven better than toothpaste not containing baking soda by scientifics). It feels you are emptying completely your salivary glands in 2 seconds 😉 It cleans theeth very well (my theeth feels so smooth!); but you might want to try it for few weeks if you have sensitive gums. You can use it as it is; or add some peppermint extract or peppermint essential oil (if you limit the amount of essential oil, your toothpaste will be cheaper than a regular toothpaste). It is quite salty… but you get used to it. An if you prefer a paste, add little by little some water and mix well.

Deodorant: I only use a drop of palmarosa oil. I wrote on it here.

Reusable pad cloth: I love it! I use those from “Eco Femme”. Why? Because it is a social project for women empowerment in India, it saves a lot of waste… and the push button (to keep it in place in your uderware) is very thin (… if you bike every day it might be more comfortable). The cons: it comes from India… but yes… one makes choices… I’ve about 12 pieces (3eur per piece). But the quality is excellent.

Menstrual cup: there you also have a lot of choice. Big of small (according to your flow). And with different end… up to you… I like better the one with the small “button” end (blue one on the picture). The longer end felt uncomfortable to me.

I also read about menstrual underwear: a underwear keeping the menstruation without leaking or stinking…I didn’t try it, but find it a cool idea  😉

Ear stick: you can find quite easily bamboo or paper ear sticks with cotton at the end. Check at a bio/zero waste shops. I guess it will arrive (if not yet) in supermarket sooner or later. You can also use reusable sticks from inox or bamboo (e.g. oriculi). It looks like a mini spoon. But if you need time to changes your habits, as I do, you can start with the paper/cotton ear stick (it is more expensive in the long term, though).

Washable face scrub: yes, it does exist too. Either from cotton, Hemp or bamboo. Or if you can sew, just make some with old towels.

Soap and shampoo: I started with refilling my old bottles at the bio shop. But when I heard that the plastic packaging was not reused (OK, 1 big container of 20L is still better than 30 small bottles), I promised myself to look for an alternative. So I switched to hard soap…. Great. You can probably even promote local fabrication (Belgium: check one of my old flatmate new hobby/job). For Shampoo, I tried hard shampoo (2 different brands)… but I don’t like it. With long hair, I don’t get it everywhere and I don’t like the feeling of it in my hair. So I’m still refilling my bottle once in a while. I read about people using eggs, vinegar, not washing at all… But I’m not so far yet. Bu I succeeded to train my scalp to be less greasy (washing now every 3 or 4 days instead of every other day! When the become greasy, I rinse my hair with water only).

Good luck!